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On a lighter note, Mary Poppins has popped up in musicals in New York and London. There is something haunting and satisfying about a woman in long skirts and sensible shoes sailing the city skies while holding on to her umbrella and her carpetbag.

Luckily for the Banks children Mary "practically perfect in every way" Poppins blew in on a change in the wind. She more than met the qualifications of the children, if not those of their rather cold banker father.

PL Travers, who moved to London from Australia in the 1920s, wrote about Mary Poppins for fifty-four years. Mary Shepard illustrated the books. Magical, imperious, and even slightly ominous, Mary Poppins "became" Julie Andrews in her first and Disney’s most successful film. Singing the bright “A Spoonful of Sugar", the dark but reassuring "Chim-Chim Cheree” and the poignant "Feed the Birds", Andrews transformed Mary Poppins into an entrancing figure, while retaining her formidable integrity.

What exactly is Mary Poppins’ appeal? Is it her down-to-earth affirmation that the magical exists, and is grounded in the ordinary? Is it her bossiness which both irritates the children in her care and shields them from the authoritarian indifference of adults? Is it her adventurousness or our elegiac sense that her quintessential Britain with lampposts and constables and Big Ben has vanished?


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